TU B’AV: Celebrating Love
“Israel had no greater holidays than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white to dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?” (Ta’anit, Chapter 4)
Tu B’Av – the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Av – is one of the lesser known holidays in the Jewish calendar, but since the establishment of the State of Israel it has begun to gain popularity.
Coming less than a week after the sorrowful mourning of Tisha B’Av – the ninth of Av – Tu B’Av is a Jewish holiday of love. Like Chanukah, Purim and Tisha B’Av, it is also a rabbinic (post-biblical) addition to the holiday calendar. Tu B’Av occurs on a full moon, as the Hebrew calendar is lunar. Linking the full moon with love, fertility, and romance is common in ancient cultures.
The first mention of Tu B’Av is in the Mishna, where Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, “There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife)” (Ta’anit 4:8). According to the Gemara, on this day the “tribes of Israel were permitted to mingle with each other” (Taanit 30b).
The holiday was instituted in the Second Temple period to mark the beginning of the grape harvest, which ended on Yom Kippur. The Talmud lists several joyous events that have taken place on Tu B’Av:
• On either the 14th or 15th of Av, the Pharises (rabbinic Jews) were victorious over the Sadducees;
• The different tribes were allowed to intermarry on this date. This is also a source for the many weddings celebrated on Tu B’Av.
• Members of the excommunicated tribe of Benjamin were allowed to appear in the community.
• King Hosea, last monarch of the northern Israelite kingdom, removed the barriers installed by King Jereboam, the first of which prevented the northerners from making pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
• The Romans permitted the Jews to bury Bar Kochba’s supporters who had fallen at Betar.
• The end of the death of the Exodus generation in the Sinai desert, which was their punishment for believing the fabricated report on the land of Canaan delivered by the 10 spies.
• Brides-to-be danced in Shilo, a community in Samaria, which was the first capital of Israel. In modern times, since Jews have been able to return to Samaria, Jews have returned to the vineyards of the Jewish community of Shilo and dance in the vineyards serenaded by song.
On Tu B’Av, as well as other holidays, Jews do not say Tachanun in the prayer service. In addition, no eulogies are pronounced at funerals that take place on this day.
Tu B’Av is a popular date for Jews to hold weddings, coming only a few days after the end of the three-week period (from the Fast of Tammuz, commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, until Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple) in which weddings are prohibited.
In Israel,, Tu B’Av is a day of love. While it is a regular workday, music and dance festivals are typically held to celebrate the day and Israelis give cards and flowers to their loved ones. These customs are observed by all Israelis whether they consider themselves religious or non-religious.
Source: www.myjewishlearning.com and www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org.
If You Haven’t Heard of This Holiday, You’re Not Alone
By Chana Weisberg
Most of us have been to the synagogue on Yom Kippur. We’ve munched matzah at the Passover Seder. We’ve watched Uncle Marvin kindle the Chanukah menorah while noshing on Aunt Sally’s oily latkes. We may have dressed as clowns with our kids on the joyous day of Purim; and we mourned on TIsha B’Av – the Ninth of Av – when our Temples were demolished.
These are all remarkable days on our calendar, days that commemorate significant events. But how many of us draw a blank by Tu B’Av – the 15th day of Av? Yet the Talmud teaches, “There were no greater festivals for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”
Seriously? Comparing this unknown day to the holiest day on our nation’s calendar? What is so special about the 15th of Av?
The Talmud writes: “The daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed linen garments (so as not to embarrass those without beautiful clothes of their own) . . . and dance in the vineyards,” and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride. (Talmud, Ta’anit 31a)
There are lots of deep explanations about this day. (Here’s one.)
My take is very basic, but it is at the core of what I love so much about Judaism.
Judaism tells us to strive for the heavens while keeping our feet grounded to the earth.
The message of the 15th of Av is so down-to-earth: Experience the mystery of marriage. Taste the wonder of love. See the beauty of two very diverse people uniting in body, heart and soul to create harmony in our world. Observe the selflessness of two individuals coming together despite personal barriers to bring new life to our world. And as you do, realize that you are witnessing holiness.
Judaism teaches us that the 15th of Av is no less holy than the hallowed day of Yom Kippur, when we fast and forgo all our bodily needs in our quest to reach spiritual heights. Why? Because this was the day that marriages were forged.
And marriage is a holy institution.
There’s one more important point. The girls would wear borrowed clothing so no one would be embarrassed. No high-fashion couture clothing surrounded in luxurious posh mansions; no petty competitiveness to outshine one another. The girls danced joyously in the vineyards in simple, borrowed, linen garments.
The matchmaking festivity underscored: look beyond the outer shell and find a deeper soul connection.
In our society, when the sanctity of marriage is being eroded, when our values have become shallow and our ideals battered, this day has a valuable message.
Let’s make the 15th of Av a day of increased love, focused less on superficial externals and more on what really matters.
Chana Weisberg is editor of TheJewishWoman.org. The author of five books, she lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul.
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org, the Judaism website.